Archive for Sunday, March 20, 2005

Record crowd sees UK pull away from rival Cincy, 69-60

March 20, 2005


— Cincinnati still is playing the little brother to neighboring Kentucky. The Wildcats just keep beating them up.

Second-seeded Kentucky relied on three-point shooting to get started, then strong-armed the undersized Bearcats inside and finally wore them down late to pull away with a 69-60 second-round victory Saturday in the Austin Regional.

"They try to put a lot of pressure on you," said Kelenna Azubuike, who led Kentucky with 19 points. "The way to beat that is be aggressive and fight the pressure, not back down."

The bitterness between the schools, located about 90 miles apart, has been fueled by the rarity with which they play. There have been just six games since 1948, and Kentucky has won 15 straight in the series dating to 1939.

Saturday's victory meant even more, though. The Wildcats (27-5) avoided a second straight second-round upset and a third straight elimination by a Conference USA school and now face sixth-seeded Utah, a 67-58 winner over Oklahoma.

Kentucky won this one by dominating the middle.

Chuck Hayes finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, and freshman Randolph Morris produced the first double-double of his career with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Azubuike had nine rebounds, and another freshman, Rajon Rondo, added 16 points.

The Wildcats outscored Cincinnati 34-12 in the paint.

"Randolph, late, was grabbing every rebound," Hayes said. "He was becoming a presence down there in the paint."

The game even had the elements of a family feud.

A crowd of 40,331 set the one-session record for an NCAA subregional site, breaking the previous mark of 39,940 set in Indianapolis in 1990. Most of the fans were clad in Kentucky blue or Illinois orange, but as the second game started, pockets of Cincinnati red also appeared.

Fans interrupted each other's chants, and one held a sign that read "Real Cats Wear Blue and White, not Black and Red." Kentucky fans even booed the Bearcats' cheerleaders as they led the team onto the floor.

On the court, emotions were stronger. Cincinnati's James White had an angry expression on his face during pregame warmups, and Kentucky players were chest bumping before introductions.

"I thought our guys showed a lot of heart and a lot of toughness against a team we have a lot of respect for," Smith said.

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